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Ukrainian President Ousted; Final Medal Count for Sochi as the Olympic Games Close; Controversial Cases on Gun Rights and Limits of President`s Power for the Supreme Court; Medals of Honor Awarded to War Veterans after Many Decades; Raising of Federal Minimum Wage

Aired February 24, 2014 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for starting the last week of February with CNN STUDENT NEWS. I`m Carl Azuz with ten minutes of commercial free headlines for the classroom.

There`s a big question hovering over Ukraine right now. Who is in charge of the country? It doesn`t look like it`s President Viktor Yanukovych. Over the weekend, Ukraine`s parliament voted to throw him out, appointed parliament Speaker Olexander Turchinov to take on presidential duties and scheduled new elections for late May.

Yanukovych left the capital of Kiev saying he was forced out by "vandalism, crime and a coup." But he also said he was still Ukraine`s legitimate leader and didn`t plan to resign. This all happened during protests in the capital. Some Ukrainians like the president want ties with Russia, some want closer ties with the European Union. People are mourning the dozens, who`ve died in recent clashes between the two sides. We don`t know where the president is. We don`t know what will happen next in Ukraine.

Our second story today, closing ceremonies from Sochi, Russia is the 22 Olympic Winter Games officially wrapped up last night. Spectacular fireworks and large scale choreography ringed the occasion. The Paralympics start early next month. As far as the final Olympic medal count goes, Russia got the most gold medals and the most medals overall. The first time the host country has done that since 1952. Russia has 33 medals, the U.S. took home 28 medals overall, and in order with 26, 25 and 24 medals Norway, Canada and the Netherlands.

But as the athletes headed home the nations all over the worlds, medals and the Olympic experience weren`t the only things they took with them. Gus Kenworthy, a U.S. Olympic silver medalist in freestyle skiing, took home some dogs, five of them, there were thousands of strays living around Sochi in the lead up to the games. Kenworthy loves dogs. When a friend showed him a photo of four puppies and their mother who needed home, he decided to adopt them taking home a dog family to his human family in the states.

The top judicial branch of the U.S. government is about to hear a case involving the executive and legislative branches. If Congress doesn`t pass a law on a particular issue, how much authority does the White House have? That`s one questions before the Supreme Court, the other involves gun rights.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There`s no shortage of controversy before the court. On Monday, the justices could decide to take cases that could significantly expand gun rights. The National Rifle Association is challenging a Texas concealed carry law that bans anyone under 21 from carrying guns in public. The NRA argues that Second Amendment right of self-defense extends to responsible 18 to 20 year olds, as well. And the NRA is appealing a federal ban on selling handguns to minors saying that also violates Second Amendment rights.

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHIGNTON UNIV.: After the Supreme Court recognized the individual right to have guns, the question became what type of limitations should be put on that right?

JONES: Also, on Monday the court hears the case that could test the limits of President Obama`s push to use his executive power when Congress won`t act. This time on climate change. At issue, whether the EPA went too far. When without congressional approval it limited carbon emissions from power plants, factories and other sources of greenhouse gases beyond cars and trucks.

TURLEY: On the constitutional side, this is a classic conflict between Congress and the White House. Congress has refused to give the president what he wants and now the EPA is going it alone.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this legit: In the U.S., the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This is legit! The United States government requires employers to pay workers at least $7.25 per hour. That`s your answer and that`s your shoutout.

AZUZ: It takes an active Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. It last went up in 2009. Two major things happen that`s done. One, minimum wage workers make more money, which can help their standard of living, two, businesses have to pay employees more, which can hurt their ability to stay in business. That`s why better pay, but fewer jobs is usually part of this debate.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is not just a good policy. It also happens to be good politics.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama (INAUDIBLE) initiatives raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, and now he`d been praised on A company he hopes will be a trendsetter. Gap, the parent company of Banana Republic Old Navy and Athleta stores announced this week it will raise the minimum wage for 65,000 employees to $9.00 by June of this year, and $10, 00 a year later.

LUIS VASQUEZ, MCDONALD`S EMPLOYEE: They are still not paying me enough to be able to survive.

FIELD: Luis Vasquez (ph) makes $8 an hour at a McDonald`s in New York City, fast food workers and the unions that support them have publicly lobbied for a much bigger pay hike, $15.

VASQUEZ: $15 an hour would allow me to move into my own place and be able to pay my own bills.

FIELD: But in New Jersey, Dolores Riley says if her payroll cost go any higher, she could be forced to shut down her daycare business.

DOLORES RILEY, DAYCARE OWNER: I don`t know if I can make it. I really don`t think I can afford it.

FIELD: When New Jersey raised its minimum wage to $8.25 an hour in January, Riley says out of fairness, she felt she had to increase every employer`s salary. Not just the lowest earner. Riley estimates she`ll pay an additional $10,000 to $15,000 in payroll this year.

RILEY: Which is a lot of money. I mean I`m not a rich company. I`m certainly not the Gap.

FIELD: The president is calling for more companies to follow the Gap`s lead along with action from Congress.

OBAMA: I`m going to be seeking Republicans who are - to work with us.

FIELD: This week, the Congressional Budget Office released its minimum wage report, one that adds fuel to both sides of a national debate.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, POLITICAL EDITOR: To Republicans, the CBO report, well, it kind of hammers home their point, that if you raise the minimum wage, you kill a lot of jobs. Democrats in the White House, they reject that argument and they point to a different part of the report that says nearly a million people will be raised out of poverty.

FIELD: Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.


AZUZ: Welcome to the "Roll Call." This Monday, we are moving across the American South, starting in Sharpsburg, Georgia. East Coweta High School is on today`s roll. Hello to the Indians. Two states West, in Mississippi, we are glad to be online in Hattiesburg, that`s home to the Oak Grove High School Warriors and two states west of them, in Allen, Texas, it`s all about the Eagles. They are watching at Allen High School.

Now, a different sort of "Roll Call." One that names those who were in the highest military decoration a U.S. service man or woman can get. For 12 years, Congress has been investigating whether some Americans weren`t awarded the Medal of Honor because of their race or ethnicity. The review found 19 people who the government says were discriminated against. They are among the 24 veterans whose actions will be honored next month.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris was just 19, when he became a green beret. He volunteered to go to Vietnam. In 1969, under heavy fire hit multiple times, bleeding, he rescued dead and wounded troops. The Army says he showed "determination possessed by few men" and his ability to lead "has rarely been equaled." Today, at 72 with his wife of 51 years, Mary, the pride, the dignity and now - a wrong will be made right. Morris is one of 24 veterans who decades late will receive the nation`s highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor. It is a roll call of bravery and heroism above and beyond the call of duty for men who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Only Morris and two other Vietnam veterans are still living.

In 2002, Congress ordered a review of Jewish and Hispanic veterans` war records. To find out who may have suffered discrimination and not been awarded the honors they deserved. Potential African American discrimination was also found. All are now being recognized.

COL. HARVEY BARNUM (RET.) U.S. MARINES: I`d heard rumors to the fact that there were certain people who - people thought should have received the Medal of Honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Retired Marine and Vietnam vet Harvey Barnum received his Medal of Honor in 1967. His unit also under intense fire, with complete disregard for his safety, he moved to save others. Now, he has just one message for the Vietnam survivors.

BARNUM: I look forward to put my arms around them and call them brother and say welcome home.


AZUZ: Putting arms around someone and welcoming them home. Ties in nicely to our last story today. Three-year old Bridget Karr (ph) had no idea what was in the large box during her birthday party. But this president unwrapped itself. Her dad, her dad who`d been deployed in Afghanistan for four months. When he found out he`d be coming home a couple of weeks early, on the day of her party, he presented her with himself. He posted this on YouTube, so other family members could see it, but it went viral as an excellent example of thinking inside the box.

That`ll box out today`s edition of CNN STUDENT NEWS. We`re back tomorrow. That should come as no surprise. We hope you`ll gift to see us then.